Saturday, December 30, 2017


Month 7 Day 15
2352 Hours

Smitty was working on his third glass of a milky green drink with the consistency of partially-melted crushed ice, a strong odor of boiling cabbage, and a vague taste of pinecones. He had gotten used to it, but thought longingly of the whiskey in his cabin.

He sipped his drink as he turned and immediately noticed a redhead half the room away. This is annoying. All evening, she’s been wherever I look. Hope this doesn’t continue on the ship, me unable to avoid her. After all the times I caught her drinking, at least she isn’t drunk. Isn’t acting drunk. She raised her glass, and half the milky green beverage was downed in a couple swallows. How can she drink this stuff that fast?

Lt Bugalu joined the redhead’s group. All the lovely women at this party, and he can’t stay away from her. Even with a woman on his arm. Wait, the woman with him is Colleen. The paler one I thought was Colleen must be Kolla. Huh. How often have I made that mistake?

A hand touched his shoulder. “Come with me. You’ll enjoy this conversation.”

Smitty followed, but his legs became rubber as S’thyme lead him toward the Kolla/Colleen group. As they walked past, Smitty heard Bugalu ask, “Are you still doing that?”

It took a while for Colleen to answer, but eventually, “I guess.”

Doing what?

S’thyme introduced Smitty to a small group. Ushto, the tall male, was a historian; Fhaghee was a scientist helping extend the transportating beam’s range; and the woman was Gwanth, a biochemist who helped S’thyme’s team when needed. Introductions over, Smitty asked, “I understand your desire to explore another planet, but do you know what the conditions are there? Could your people survive?”

“Yes,“ Gwanth replied. “They’d need better clothing than what’s used at the poles, and...” Her voice faded as Smitty heard another conversation behind him.

“He’s light years away,” Bugalu said. “He has no way to punish you anymore.”

She was slow responding. “I know.” It seemed she was done, until, “But...” A long silence. “But that’s my... my...”

Smitty could see the Yukoskian mouths moving, but the conversation behind him seemed more important. Something’s wrong. She doesn’t usually have trouble talking. Smitty looked around without thinking.

Bugalu faced Colleen, his eyebrows pinched together. “Mac?” She stared at him, eyes half closed and dull. She leaned, and Bugalu grabbed her upper arm. Her eyes fully closed and she collapsed against Bugalu, who took 2 steps back before he could stop her momentum.

His conversation forgotten, Smitty turned around. “What happened?”

“I’ll get Dr Davis,” Bugalu replied, and pushed the redhead toward Smitty.

She was heavy, but he expected that. Smitty put an arm around her and looked for help. He no longer saw Bugalu, but Tall Bear stood near-by, his face as impassive as ever. “Help me lay her down,” he requested.

“She’ll hit me,” Tall Bear returned, but came closer.

“She’s out cold,” Smitty told him.

“She was the last time, and still gave me a black eye.”

S’thyme moved forward, looking confused. “She’s never hit me,” he told the AmerInd, and helped Smitty lower her to the floor. Her hat rolled away and that misbehaving curl moved out of place.

“Has she ever hit you, Mr Smythe?” Tall Bear asked.

“Of course not!”

“Might explain why she’s never hit Mr S’time,” Tall Bear stated.

“What’s going on?” Dr Davis asked breathlessly as Bugalu pulled her across the room.

“She wasn’t herself,” Bugalu stated. “As the evening progressed, she complained of a headache and wanted to hold my arm because it was ‘too dim’. She got shaky, sweaty, and couldn’t think. Glad you weren’t far away, Dr Davis.”

Davis pulled her portable diagnostic scepter from her pocket, knelt and scanned the girl’s body. “Wish I knew what she ate tonight.”

“Not much of anything,” Bugalu stated. “Except for that lavender ice cream or whatever that was served in the middle of the meal. Ate all of hers and mine.”

“We tried to make the food compatible with your biochemistry,” Gwanth stated.

“I know,” Davis answered. “What did she drink, Bugs?”

“They gave her a pale green drink, which she gave to me and asked for something sweet. They didn’t understand until she said something about fruit. Then they brought her a glass of pink bubbles. I think she’s had 5.”

“These readings can’t be right,” Davis said, and started her scan again.

“What do they say?” Gwanth asked.

“That her blood sugar is unheard-of low,” Davis answered.

“Sugar,” Gwanth repeated. “Is that C6H12O6?”

“Yes. Our bodies use it as fuel.”

“Not ours,” Gwanth replied. “It slows down our system. We use both the julatei that she ate and the totka she drank to remove sugar.”

Davis pulled a communicator from a pocket. “Davis to sick bay.” There was always somebody in sick bay, but this time, they took forever to answer. “Davis to sick bay!”

“Sick bay,” a female finally answered.

“I’ve got a crew member down with severe hypoglycemia. Prepare a dose of glucose. Make it 2 doses. I’ll send someone for it.”

“I’ll go,” S’thyme stated, his fingers already working the controls he wore on his wrist. People took a step away as he began to dissolve.

“I... don’t think I can do that,” the nurse responded.

Davis stared at her communicator in disbelief. “You don’t know how to prepare glucose?”

“Of course I know,” the woman returned. “But I can’t leave sick bay unattended.”

A 2nd voice broke in. “I’ll get it ready. Sick bay out.”

Davis’ lips formed a taut line as she discarded the communicator and scanned Colleen again. “How much sugar does it remove?”

“Whatever’s in the system,” Gwanth replied. “When it’s done, any remaining agent doesn’t do any harm, so how much sugar it can remove has never been studied.”

“Come on, Mac,” Davis whispered. “Fight it, don’t just-“

Smoke coalesced into S’thyme, exactly where he’d been standing before. He handed a box to Davis. “They sent extra.”

“Good.” Davis tore open the box and grabbed the hypo-unit. Thumbing the controls, she placed the first shot over Colleen’s heart and rapidly followed with other locations in her torso. Wherever she shot, the girl twitched. Davis adjusted controls and continued, placing the hypo-unit against the neck, wrists, thighs... too many places to count. When the machine beeped, Davis ejected the spent supply jacket - which rattled as it bounced across the floor - and inserted a new one before she took another scan of Colleen’s body functions. “Don’t be stubborn,” she mumbled, and began the injections again.

“This would be funny, if it wasn’t so serious,” Bugalu commented.

“Funny!” Tall Bear gave him a disapproving glare.

“Mac was on her best behavior tonight, and she still got into trouble.”

Davis paused to watch her scepter’s readout. “Mac has a habit of getting into trouble?”

“Of one kind or another,” Bugalu stated.

Davis sighed, and some of her tension eased. “She told me the same thing when we first met. This time, we can’t blame her. This was beyond her control.”

“She will recover?” Gwanth asked.

“Yes,” Davis answered, and smiled at the biochemist. “Thank you for your assistance.”

Colleen moaned and rolled her head to one side, pulling the other shoulder off the floor. “Bugs.”

“Right here.” Bugalu squatted, tried to tuck her wayward curl back among the others.

“I’m starving. Can you find some of that... julatei?”

No,” Davis answered.

“When we get to the ship, you can have pie,” Bugalu promised.

She rolled onto her side and opened an eye. Seeing the crowd gathered around her, her face went red. She muttered a torrent of unpronounceable words.

“I hope that’s not being translated,” Jane stated, and people chuckled as their tension abated. “MacDowell, I thought I told you to keep your hat on tonight.”

Colleen raised an uncertain hand to her disheveled curls. “Yes, sir. Sorry, captain. I’m... not sure what happened.”

“You ate and drank things nobody realized were not good for you,” Davis explained.

“And landed on the floor,” Jane added. “Can’t expect a hat to stay on in those conditions. After all, we didn’t glue it on.”

“Should hope not. I like my hair.” She put her hand flat on the floor, prepared to get up.

“Stay down!” Davis barked.

“Obey the doctor, lieutenant,” Jane instructed. “Dr Davis, when will MacDowell be able to return to the ship?” Davis waved her scepter over the redhead again, considered the readout and administered 2 more doses.

With each shot, Mac winced. “No wonder I feel like a punching bag.”

“I didn’t have time to be delicate,” Davis told her, and turned to Jane. “I think in 15 to 30 minutes. But I want her in sick bay. For the night.”

“What rotten luck for your last night here, Coline,” S’thyme stated.

Davis rose and whispered to Jane, “The only thing she ate or drank tonight were recipes for removing sugar from the blood, since sugar isn’t used by Yukoskians. And that got dangerous very quickly.”

Colleen rolled onto her back and stared at the ceiling a moment. “Bugs, did I faint?”

“You lost consciousness, yeah,” he returned. He accepted Mac’s hat, which a native woman held forward.

“I don’t remember much,” she muttered. “And that’s embarrassing.”

The young doctor knelt for another quick scan of her patient. “How do you feel?”

“Starved. Shaky. Weak. If I’m going to sick bay, can I have something to eat?”

“Absolutely. For tonight, it’s pie, cake and ice cream.”

“Sounds strange to hear a doc say that.”

Davis held up the hypogun. “By the time I got some glucose, your blood sugar was at 5. And still going down.”

“What’s it supposed to be?”

“100 to 140. 70 is low. They’ll keep an eye on it in sick bay. Gwanth said the sugar-removing agent works quickly, and is out of their system in 8 hours. But since you’re human, and had several portions, we’re not sure of anything.” She stood. “Bugs, help her into a chair. Let’s see how well she manages that.”

Someone placed a chair nearby. Bugalu and Tall Bear got her in the chair, but she looked as if she had just had a long, hard workout. Sweat rolled down her pale face and stained her uniform as she tried to catch her breath. Bugalu stood beside her, his hand on her shoulder. After a moment, he asked, “Are you dizzy, Mac?”

“Yeah.” She didn’t elaborate.

Davis stepped forward with her scepter, ‘tsk’ed at the readout, and gave the girl more glucose. “Sit quietly. And say something if anything changes. Vision, headache, nausea... anything!”

“I think... I thought Bugsy was... restless.”

“Come on, Mac,” Bugalu muttered, as if he could ever be restless around her.

Colleen shrugged. “Confusion. Foggy headed.”

“What?” Davis reached for her scepter again.

“Not now,” the redhead clarified quickly. “When I was dizzy.” As Davis relaxed, Colleen looked at the dozen - or less - people in this area. “Where did everybody go?”

Jane stated, “Most have left. We agreed that 3 weeks is a long party, and cutting the last day short by an hour or two does not jeopardize our negotiated agreement.”

“Now I feel guilty,” Colleen muttered.

“Please don’t,” Ushto urged. “This has happened before.”

“A negotiator fainted during the party?” Colleen asked.

“The most notable example is when - many centuries ago - the Yurg negotiator fell ill during the celebration, as did a quarter of his people,” Ushto replied. “Some Yurgs suspected poison. But a Luan doctor was allowed to treat them, and all was good. So long as no food made with xell was served, all remained well.”

Gwanth added, “Xell was a common food for the Luans, but unknown to the Yurg. There are still people on Yukosk who must avoid xell in their diet.”

“I hope I told those ladies how grateful I am for their efforts on behalf of a complete stranger.”

“No, but they all saw you become ill.” Kolla stepped forward. “I’ll give you their names and contact information. You can send your gratitude through the machine W’son installed on our moon base.”

“That seems... impersonal. And late.”

“Not at all,” Gwanth returned. “To hear from you will assure them you are well. And that you remember them with warm feelings.”

“Plus, it will be a good test of the translating radio,” Smitty added quietly.

“Wish I could have been part of that team,” Colleen sighed, and looked around at the remaining Yukoskians. “Thank you for your assurances. I had no wish to spoil the party.”

“Such things happen,” Jane stated. “Dr Davis, how is she doing?”

“The only part that concerns me is the walk from the briefing room to sick bay. As strong as she normally is, she may find that difficult.”

“I’ll take her straight to DocMac’s office,” S’thyme volunteered. “It’s where I came from when I brought the medicine.”

“Then it’s up to her. Are you ready, Mac?”

Colleen looked uncertainly at S’thyme as Bugalu whispered in her ear. She looked startled, but slowly, carefully, she stood up. “That’s the way,” S’thyme said as he surged forward. He took her hands. “Is this enough support, Coline? It’s only a few seconds.”

Colleen looked over S’thyme’s shoulder at Smitty. “It’s fine.” She was still staring at Smitty as the 2 of them dissolved.

And so she goes off with me, except it isn’t me. S’thyme gave me a manual for their transportation beam. I’ll need somebody to translate it. I’ll ask Abdulla in the morning.